Tag Archives: Depression

Trauma and Recovery – reframing difficult thoughts.

If like me, you’ve suffered with trauma, you’ll be familiar with the distressing battle with intrusive thoughts, memories and flashbacks. It’s important if you have C-PTSD, PTSD, or any related conditions that you seek professional help. I’ve tried to get through things on my own in the past, but I couldn’t get a handle on the ‘explosions’ in my mind and the related physical pain from trying to cope without really knowing or understanding what was happening to me. It was scary, but getting help has been a game-changer for me.

I’m not a professional, a trauma psychologist, or a medical practitioner. But I am someone living with and overcoming complex post traumatic stress and the daily challenges that a maladaptive brain presents. Getting help has given me understanding and hope, but now I’m no longer getting this input, I still have to invest in ways of discovering how to help my brain heal.

If I can help anyone else out there in a similar position to find relief and mental strength, that would mean so much to me. So I’ll just share with you some of the things that I am continuing to learn on this journey.

Identity:

One of the most overwhelming and difficult things for me has been how adverse childhood experiences impacted and crushed my sense of a positive identity. This has been a long road, but I’ve worked hard and am finding strength and would like to help others also. Yes, we can work on positive self talk (which is so important), we can exercise our minds to think on positive attributes about ourselves and go over and over these again and again until new ‘tracks’ are formed in our mental processing. We can work hard at retraining our thought processes and reactions. However, we all, who are on this journey, know the crippling pain and distress caused by those intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and experiences that are laden with powerful emotions. We become scared of these thoughts, and sometimes we become lost in them. Our minds become frightening places to dwell. We might try to pretend that certain things didn’t happen, we might try to minimise their significance in how they affected us by comparing our experiences to others who went through far worse, we might try to block things out, or find harmful ‘coping mechanisms’. We need someone to help us work through these things a little at a time, and it may take years, or even decades depending on how we were initially affected by the trauma. But one thing we can do for ourselves is to create a context in which these difficult thoughts, memories and emotions can sit, and in doing so, defuse their power, and take back control of our own minds and lives.

Let me share with you what I do. I seek ways in which to put the painful and difficult experiences into a context of being part of a bigger plan of becoming the strong and positive and amazing individual I am meant to be. I know that I am made new in Christ, but I also think of myself as a Princess Warrior, and so when the negative comes to mind, I remind myself, that I can see it in a different context – rather than seeing myself as a victim, I can choose to think of it as a painful and difficult part of my life’s journey, and in fact reclaim control of my mind by seeing it as a training process to make me strong, an overcomer, a warrior of light. How can I be a princess warrior if I haven’t been through any battles?

Our minds seek narrative, context, meaning and explanation. Sometimes our experiences are just too painful to be able to get there in any easy way. We have to let things take their course, but if we can regain control over our narratives, we can begin to shape a more positive future for ourselves. Creating context and meaning is something our minds crave, so we can find ways to do this. I am far less afraid of those formerly extremely troubling thoughts. I have a narrative and when they intrude, rather than try to push them away, fear them, or block them out, I embrace them in a new way of thinking – I think to myself, oh yes, that was a lie, I break it, or that helped shape me into becoming the overcomer that I am meant to be, and I think of what I can take from those experiences to use positively today and in the future.

Once we know we are not helpless, that we have choice, we are not victims, we can rewrite that narrative, give it new meaning and context, and look upon it productively so that we don’t have to spend all of our days in mental suffering, but we can transform our minds, little by little, bit by bit, even when it is painful, and we can become strong enough to help others. What do you want your identity and story to be? Today is a good day to start figuring it out. Be blessed, and may your future be filled with Love and Light and purpose. x

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When you feel insecure, and wonder whether you are enough…

Do you ever have those moments, perhaps when you are doing ok, and have been working hard at your life, but something makes you feel inadequate, not quite good enough?

I think these moments come to us all, and perhaps we don’t recognise that we internalise certain false beliefs about ourselves at such times, because they leave an emotional imprint.

Maybe you have been doing your best, but then you come face to face with someone else’s accomplishments, perhaps they are younger than you, more vibrant, making changes that are positively impacting the world around them…and you suddenly feel deflated, as if what you are doing is not good enough, and wonder why aren’t you doing or able to do those things. Or maybe you’ve been working through some struggles and doing your best to get by, and make the most of what you’ve got, to have a right attitude, and at last you feel like you might just be getting there, to a place of contentment if not quite satisfaction. You’re doing ok. And then you see that someone else’s life is overflowing with the blessings you can’t imagine ever happening for yourself, and you wonder whether you’re just not good enough, not worthy enough, or why things are so much harder for you.

Maybe you feel like, despite the evidence to the contrary, you’re not talented, everyone around you is better, and those feelings of insecurity tug at your heart and threaten to bring you down.

And all the while, someone is looking at you and your life and thinking, wow, he / she is amazing. Maybe they see you as the girl who is smart, and beautiful and has many friends, who seems to breeze through life, and face struggles with strength and defiance. Maybe they wish for your home, or your talents, or to be able to travel and go where you have gone, or to be a strong independent singleton, or to have that seemingly happy family that you know is actually not that much of a fairy-tale from the inside. Maybe they see you as the guy who is always cheerful, smart, likeable, funny, attractive, with not a care in the world. And all the while, inside your mind and heart, it couldn’t be more different.

Just know that these feelings are normal, and we all face them at some point or another through life, and to varying degrees. Things are never just quite what they seem. There are things about each other we can’t see. We can’t see someone’s past, we can’t see their losses, their mental health struggles, their chronic pain, their illness, their fears, their unfulfilled longings, their low-self esteem, their childhood traumas, their loneliness. There is so much about each other that we fail to see, perhaps behind smiles and accomplishments that indicate that everything is ‘great’ for that person.

But we all are human, and we all have our ups and downs. So if you feel insecure, know that often this may come from comparisons with others, including false comparisons and negative thinking. Do we really have the right to judge and compare and make value judgements on the basis of that? I don’t think we do. It can be hard sometimes to feel as though you are enough, to overcome the lies that tell you you’re not worthy as a person, and to allow the Truth in. When Light shines on any of our hearts, it exposes the darkness that is in us all, and only by surrendering to the Truth, that we need to be set free and healed and saved and helped can we begin to be our authentic selves, unafraid to step into the Light.

You are unique, there is no one else like you, with the exact same blueprint, DNA, and intricate design as you. Even ‘identical twins’ are not the same. There is no one quite like you, and that is what makes you special. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And yes, you’re not like that other person you admire, but you weren’t meant to be. You might not have the easier path, but are there not lessons that you could not possibly have learned otherwise? Lessons that might just help someone else in an incredible or small way.  You don’t look like them because you aren’t meant to. You don’t have the same life as them, because you weren’t meant to. And they don’t have your life. So when you feel insecure, remember that you are remarkably unique, one of a kind, unlike any other, and take time to seek the Truth and the Light that will illuminate who you are and who you are meant to be – uniquely, incomparably you. x

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Managing Change at Work

Our lives are always changing. Our experiences ebb and flow with the seasons. We find comfort in the predictability of the seasons of life, and the rhythm of our days – we like change, we even find it exciting, when we can manage it, feel somewhat in control, in the driving seat.

Yet change doesn’t always happen in a way that we would like. When planned for, change can be life enhancing – the new job we prepared for, the travel adventures we want to go on, the new seasons of life that come with new friendships, relationships, births, marriages, achievements, academic success, promotions, new hobbies, and so forth, where change happens, but it is wanted and to some extent planned for. Life sometimes just happens though….regardless of whether the changes that come are what we want or not. Changes may be unwanted, negative – they might involve suffering or pain or loss or just throwing us outside of our comfort zone more than we would like. But what of those changes that are neither particularly ‘good’ nor ‘bad’….just different?

To bring things to a personal level, with where ‘life happens to be’ for me at the moment, the organisation I work with has recently been amalgamated / absorbed into our larger ‘parent’ organisation, as it were. Old logos have gone and we are now all ‘one and the same’, within this bigger organisation. I helped, along with some of my colleagues, with the business transfer – the legal stuff. It was an exciting new challenge and I learned a lot that I would otherwise have had no opportunity to without these unique circumstances. As important as it was – that was the easy bit!

Now that all of the legal procedures have been dealt with, and things are official, the practicalities of what this means have come into play. Thankfully, I won’t be moving to another building, but 250 people are moving in to the one I’m in. I’m seeing new faces every day, I have no idea who most of them are or what their jobs are, and I have on the positive side of things been involved with new and more interesting work.

Now, as a person with C-PTSD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression, changes like this can be quite tricky. I had a panic attack and was sent home from work last week, and that’s even before the new people arrived – I had just been moved out of the room I was in, someone was in the temporary quiet place I was to be in for a couple of weeks until they let me know where I’ll be sitting, and so this ‘little issue’ turned out to be a major trigger for me in feeling unsafe, overwhelmed and like a helpless and threatened child again – I was no longer in control of my surroundings and felt like certain people were being hostile towards me, which may just be their less than graceful way of communicating. And so came the fear, stress, hyper vigilance, hyperventilation, panic, tears, dizziness, PTSD etc.

Thankfully, despite various hurdles and challenges along the way, my workplace is pretty supportive overall, and I am very thankful for that. If you find yourself in a similar situation, and have ‘hidden disabilities’ that make things harder for you, then know that there are ways for you to manage change at work. Maybe like me, you’re protected by legislation, and have people within your organisation who can advocate for you when speaking up for yourself is difficult or seemingly ‘impossible’. Through this process I have had meetings, a risk assessment, and an occupational health review. As such, I am being considered for work in a quiet space, to help me stay well at work, and to continue doing the excellent work they know I am capable of doing. I am awaiting a decision on that, but in the meantime I have been given a laptop to use in a quiet room, which happens to have a beautiful view of trees – which is just the calming effect that I need.  I still have the hurdles of my own anxieties to overcome, like encountering new people, wondering whether colleagues think I’m getting preferential treatment, or whether they think I’m ‘crazy’, or weird or are talking about me.

I’m sure I’m not alone in these kind of thoughts and feelings – that’s all part and parcel of anxiety – however, we can find ways to manage change at work better, if we learn to better manage our own thoughts, feelings, nervous system and wellbeing. If you are struggling, maybe that’s the last thing you feel you need to hear right now – but I know that it is a daunting and difficult journey. it takes time, it takes courage, it takes patience and practice. And sometimes we just can’t quite manage it on our own – and you know what – that’s ok. If you are having to manage change at work try to give yourself as much help as you can – when you are less stressed write down some ways in which you can find a helpful way forward – perhaps this might involve asking someone for help, asking your employer for ‘reasonable adjustments’, getting a letter from your doctor or union representative, or some other form of advocate. On a more personal level, it may mean spending more time working on your breathing, managing anxiety, ensuring you are looking after yourself physically, working on improving your sleep, water intake, healthy eating, exercise and generally being really kind to yourself. This can be incredibly difficult when things are tough and stressful. It can also be difficult to keep in contact with friends and you might feel alone – but there are always avenues of support – you deserve giving yourself the best chance. Find familiar things at work and build them into your day – whether that may be going somewhere for lunch that you are comfortable with, keeping in touch with a colleague you are friends with, or working on something that you know you are good at. The bigger, strategic, high-level changes may be out of our hands, but at a more ‘down to earth’ level, we can find ways and means to help ourselves and each other manage the otherwise stressful effects of workplace change. Any helpful ideas from your experience? Please feel free to share them in the comments. x

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My New Blog – ‘Victory over Bullying’ providing Help for Bullied Children and Adults…

Hi Friends,

I’ve started a new blog to provide free help, support and advice for children who are being bullied. I also hope to provide help for adults like myself overcoming the effects of childhood bullying, and advice for parents, friends and carers.

My new blog is one day old, so please be patient while I get things going. It is so important that our children and young people get the help they need, and if you know a young person who can benefit, please look at this along with them or share the link. There are so many bad influences online that I have created a safe place for children and adults to find healing, encouragement and help. It means so much if this helps even one person. Please share the encouragement. Thank you.

https://bullyinghelp.home.blog/category/help-for-children/

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“Why am I single?” …

Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I single?”. I’m sure it’s not an uncommon question for those of us who are, and I imagine for most single people, it is followed with thoughts such as “What’s wrong with me?” “Am I not good enough?”, and similar feelings of self doubt. 

But what if we were to ask ourselves that question with a positive frame of mind? Ask “Why am I single?” not to explore your self doubt or worry over what you think are your flaws and shortcomings, but to identify and discover and live out your PURPOSE. 

I know it’s not easy, because our thoughts directly impact our emotional wellbeing and can in turn lead to negative physical effects. A negative thought seldom appears alone, and after a string of negative thoughts about ourselves, we might end up feeling sad, lonely, dejected and even depressed. Which is why it is so important that we learn to reframe our thought processes, especially in a society that has limited views of success, that don’t always include celebrating the lives, kindness and accomplishments of single people. 

So, think about it this way. Why are you single? Why are you set apart (not set aside) for this season of your life, and what positive difference does the world and do the people around you need you to make, that only you alone can make?

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Do you keep (mentally) fit?

It’s easy enough to talk about physical fitness. Even if people have issues around their health, weight, diet, conditions or lifestyle, there is such an open platform to talk about bettering ourselves physically. There is no shortage of diet plans, exercise programmes and encouragement to keep fit, physically. For people who have never exercised, there are initiatives such as ‘Couch to 5k’, there is a lot of talk about nutrition, vegan diets, making sure you get your 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, keeping active and training physically to look and feel your best. So, even if one isn’t particularly fit, there are plenty of resources available to help them to make changes and talking about fitness is seen as a positive thing in most cases. 

But what about mental fitness? We train our bodies, but do we train our minds? Do we make sure we get enough mental rest and exercise, and linked to physical health, do we supply ourselves with the correct nutrition, fresh air and exercise to help us to stay mentally well? Mental health is often viewed negatively, or as a ‘problem’, and even with things being more open nowadays, there are still societal taboos around talking about mental health. However, just as everyone has physical health that can be either good or poor, so too does everyone have mental health – which can be generally good, bad or variable.

Do you think of your mind in this way? Just as you would exercise your muscles to keep in good condition, do you also explore what are the best ways for you to exercise your mind, to stay mentally fit and healthy or to recover from ‘injury’? 

Chances are that most of us know that we need to pay attention to our mental health, but aside from seeking professional help, we don’t really know how. Staying mentally fit and looking after your mental health does not only apply to people with conditions, such as myself, like depression, anxiety and C-PTSD. Even if you have no diagnosable mental health conditions, you still have a mind, and you need to keep it healthy. What the mind is, is a more nebulous topic for discussion, but the way we think affects almost every aspect of our lives, including our physical health. 

Of course, seek professional help and support for mental health conditions or ‘mental illness’. But even if you consider yourself to be ‘fine’ mentally, you still need to stay in training on a daily basis. This doesn’t simply mean ‘brain training’ or doing things to improve your cognitive abilities, it also means giving your mind what it needs. 

So what are some of the things your mind needs to stay healthy?

  • Rest – just as our physical bodies need rest, we also need to rest our minds in order to stay well and to help process the multitude of information that we encounter on a daily basis. As well as good sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise, our minds also benefit when we take time just to be still, and if you like to ‘meditate’ and allow yourself to be quiet for a while, free from distraction, noise, busyness, technology and external input. You might like to meditate on a Truth, a verse from scripture, or simply try to rest and allow your thoughts to come and go and settle.

 

  • Journaling  – our thoughts and emotions are intricately linked. Expressing ourselves through writing can be very helpful to externalise difficult emotions in a healthy and productive way, and can also help us to identify what we are thinking, how we ‘talk to ourselves’ in our minds, and to see whether we have any particular negative thought patterns that we need to address.

 

  • Talking – our minds process information received in a variety of ways, and this includes through narrative and through verbalising and sharing our thoughts with someone else. This is why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other ‘talk therapies’ can be so beneficial for addressing thoughts, and the consequent feelings, emotions, beliefs and behaviours that result. Talking helps us to process our thoughts, put them in some sort of order, as well as receiving input from someone else who might be able to provide a healthy perspective or to offer constructive advice.

 

  • Close some ‘tabs’ – we live in an age of information, and just as technology can suffer from information overload, so too can our minds. We seem to have lost, as a society, the ability to ‘switch off’ and to concentrate on just one thing at a time, and apply all of our focus, energy and attention to that thing. Some of the most satisfying times spent whether at work, playing sport, or doing something creative, occur during ‘flow states’, when we are so absorbed in what we are doing, that time seems to pass effortlessly, we are fully engaged in what we are doing, are present and cease to worry as much about the past, or the future. If our minds are constantly having to flit from one ‘tab’ to the next, and if we have to filter and process several pieces of information at once, then we really aren’t allowing our minds the chance to get fit, strong and healthy. When you workout in the gym, you don’t hop from one machine to another and back again every few seconds. If you did, you probably wouldn’t stick at it very long, and wouldn’t be in great shape as you wouldn’t have allowed your muscles to train. Just as with physical training you require focus and planning, similarly with mental agility you need to exercise particular thought processes in order to form and strengthen healthy patterns of thinking, and behaviour. ‘Closing tabs’ doesn’t just mean on your computer, but also on your ‘to do’ lists, and minimising noise, distraction, and sensory input. Let your mind have the chance to rest and grow strong.

 

  • Be grateful  – our mental agility will increase as we intentionally practice looking at situations in a healthy way, and learning to problem solve and identify opportunities rather than just problems or barriers. Gratitude helps us emotionally, physically and mentally to stay well.

 

  • Create and play – engage your mind positively through creativity, and allow yourself to participate in an activity rather than passively absorbing information. You could colour, draw, paint, do a puzzle, word-search or crossword, play chess, play an instrument, design something from scratch, write a story, make a puppet, invent something, and so the list of endless possibilities goes on. Exercise your mind to not only take in information but to assimilate information, create new ideas and to engage actively in what you are doing in the present.

 

  • Read a book – reading stimulates the imagination, engages our thinking, provides a single point of focus for our ideas rather than the multitude of articles, clips, videos, images and posts that pop up on social media to vie for our attention.

 

There will be many more things you can do daily to strengthen your mental health and wellbeing, and if you have any ideas to share and inspire others please do comment. We cannot neglect the need to keep our minds fit and healthy. For without healthy minds, what good will healthy bodies do? xx

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It’s a brand NEW month….so what’s stopping you?

Happy 1st of June peeps! 🙂 I hope the month is going well for you so far, and if not, that you are finding the resilience, hope, strength and support you need to persevere. 

I’m excited to share with you something I did today that I haven’t done in years, many, many, many, many years! And even when I did it before it was on rare and sporadic occasions. I went *outside* to do some exercise. 

This might be matter of fact to some or maybe even a lot of you. You literally and figuratively take it in your stride to perhaps go out jogging, running, or whatever other sport or exercise you might do. But not so with me. 

I grew up feeling very insecure, shy, fearful and intimidated by people, most likely largely influenced by my early experiences of bullying in school. In school I was kind of average when it came to sports, I definitely wasn’t ‘good’ as there were some very sporty and athletic people who had their little sporty and equally academic clique. I was academic, but not sporty, and not at all self assured. I had anxiety and panic attacks in public places, and even now as an adult I have been working hard to overcome these. 

I don’t know about you but taking part in sport in school was highly stressful for me. There is a lot of comparison and ranking and being picked last or not being good enough and being bossed about by gym teachers no matter how scared, nervous or frightened or out of your depth you might feel. There were things I enjoyed, not competitively but from time to time I’d actually enjoy a little bit of hockey, netball, rounders (is that even a sport? at least it’s exercise) and I absolutely loved riding my bike (another thing I haven’t done since childhood) and the hurdles out in the playing field as I was good at that and felt for some brief moments like I was ‘flying’….and that I had accomplished something. But overall, on the whole, I kind of hated sport, PE, gym class and felt that the kind of exercise presented to us was something I was pretty much ‘allergic’ to. It was just something that was forced upon us, some people were naturally great at it, and others like me were average and struggled and muddled along, feeling self conscious, not good enough and like we were not in our natural habitat! I’m sure this is a very common experience. 

As a teenager and an adult I’ve been only to one gym, a small one, and that only lasted about a year. I’ve done exercises at home, and I love and feel very much at ease going out for walks in nature. But as an adult I had the idea and impression that I was pretty much ‘allergic to exercise’! It was not an appealing thought to me. 

However, I realised that I needed to start more regular exercise to help me overcome the depression (and it has helped massively), stay fit and healthy, keep my heart strong, and feel good about myself. For the past couple of years I have been exercising regularly at home doing workouts from various videos online on YouTube. One in particular that I love is Leslie Sansone’s walk exercises as they ease you into exercising and help you to build up gradually overtime, so that was ideal for me. Yet, the thought of going to a gym for an anxious, self conscious person who doesn’t like busy or noisy places where there are a lot of people has been pretty much something that I don’t want to do. And that’s ok. I feel comfortable at home, I can do things at my own pace, and I can have encouraging people guide me, even if that is through video. I have grown to love my little routines at home and miss exercising if I don’t do it. It has helped to lift my mood and keep me positive which is in stark contrast to the worst times of depression. 

I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is that there are no other people, no one judging, comparing, showing off or intimidating, no fears of what other people might think or not looking ok in this sports wear, or whatever it might be. I am just free to simply work on my health and fitness at my own pace from the comfort of my own home with encouraging input from people who can’t see me and don’t know me but are still a positive influence. 

So, the thought of going outside to exercise was very intimidating to me. It didn’t really appeal to me, especially the thought of doing so in front of other people. But today, and I’m not sure why, I decided, why not just go and give it a go. Start small. Walking, jogging, running. Ok, so sportswear is not your natural clothing choice, but that’s ok, put your headphones in, listen to some encouraging music, and give it a go….be brave. 

And I did give it a go, and I was brave. And I did not have one single anxiety or panic attack. 

I walked for a bit, down by the riverside where many walkers, joggers, cyclists go as well as couples, families, people just going for a stroll. I admit I was self conscious. So I walked, and walked until there were less people around, and I set myself a modest target to jog to. And then I walked, and jogged and walked until I got to a less busy place where although there were people about, it was somewhere I felt I could just ‘get on with it’. So I went from walking to jogging to running to sprinting. And then I did some HIIT – high intensity interval training. And I did it all for an hour in total, including a walk ‘cool down’ which allowed me to walk past people on my way home and not try to have to jog or run. 

It was a start. And there were some really enjoyable ‘bursts’ where I ran past people and past my self consciousness. Minor victories, perhaps, but don’t you think sometimes the smallest steps, like that first step out the front door, can turn out to be the biggest?

It was a big step to me, but I did it because I decided to not make it such a big deal. ‘Why not?’ Exactly, ‘why not?’ So what is on your mind, my friend, that you like the idea of giving a go, but are feeling afraid or anxious or nervous about? What is the person like that you’d like to be in the future, and what are the steps that you’d have to take to get there? Why not you? Why not today? What’s stopping you? 

Yes, that smallest first step in that new direction can often feel like the biggest…but I know you can do it. Is there anything new or out of your comfort zone that you’d like to try this month? Maybe the biggest first small step is getting out of your head and sharing it with others. What’s stopping you? xx

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